First Look: 2013 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class

The launch of an all-new M-Class last year seems to have sparked a wave of renovation within the Mercedes-Benz SUV portfolio. The automaker has hinted at a revised G-Class, shown off an updated GLK-Class model, and now, at the 2012 New York auto show, has officially launched the all-new 2013 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class.

A Bold New Look

As it has since 2006, the GL-Class shares its architecture with the shorter M-Class, but slots into the rather sizable gap between the ML and the cost-be-damned Gelandewagen. Much like its roots and purpose, the 2013 GL's shape is also quite familiar: the new model echoes the lines of its predecessor, although we can't help but find it more muscular. Its stance is about a half-inch wider, although at 201.6 inches long and riding on a 121-inch wheelbase, the new GL's footprint is essentially unchanged.

The GL's front fascia is still a bit boxier than its ML sibling, but the 2013 model is surprisingly more curvaceous than before. The bumper fascia tucks toward the two-bar grille just beneath the headlamp assemblies, which now boast L-shaped LED parking lamp and turn signal assemblies. Aggressive trapezoidal lower air intakes, which house LED driving lamps, seem inspired by Benz's AMG line of performance-tuned road cars. The GL's roofline mirrors its predecessors, but its profile is far less slab-sided than before. Strong character lines help break up the vertical height of the door panels, while rounded rear fenders flare from the sheetmetal in dramatic fashion. Wider taillights extend into the tailgate itself and are now illuminated by LEDs.

Inside, the GL-Class has long been comfortable and well built, but its overall design was hardly inspiring. That's no longer the case here. The new, curvaceous dashboard is nearly identical to that of the latest ML, and sweeps up toward the center stack, making way for an infotainment system now controlled by a Comand interface placed intuitively on the center console. Thick expanses of wood flow from the corners of the instrument panel and, if so equipped, hide LED-lit ambient lighting. Three rows of seating provide room for seven, while a new remote-unlatching second-row function provides quick access to the third row.

More Power

Predictably, the GL's update means the range also receives the latest engine offerings Mercedes-Benz has to offer, along with a sizable power increase across all three variants.

The diesel-fueled GL350 BlueTec remains part of the GL lineup, and continues to use a 3.5-liter, SOHC turbo-diesel V-6. Thanks to some mild revisions, the motor now produces 240 hp at 3600 rpm and 455 lb-ft of torque from 1600-2400 rpm (the previous model cranked out 210 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque.)

The 2013 GL450 continues to use a 4.7-liter, DOHC V-8, but it's far different than before. This new engine is part of Mercedes' new family of direct-injection, twin-turbocharged V-8s, and whips up 362 hp from 5000-6000 rpm, and 406 lb-ft of torque from 1500 to 4000 rpm. For comparison's sake, the non-turbocharged unit offered only 335 hp at 6000 rpm, along with 339 lb-ft of torque.

Buyers seeking mad power can continue to jump straight to the over-the-top 2013 GL550. Like the 2013 GL450, the 550 now utilizes a twin-turbocharged direct-injection, 4.7-liter V-8, but it's far more powerful than the 5.5-liter V-8 it replaces. Output is rated at 429 hp at 5250 rpm, about 47-hp greater than the outgoing 5.5-liter V-8. Torque, however, is dramatically higher than before. The 5.5-liter produced a solid 391 lb-ft, but the 2013 GL550 offers a whopping 516 lb-ft, and delivers it between 1800 and 3500 rpm. Mercedes-Benz estimates that much power is enough to rocket the 5500-pound sled from 0-60 mph in only 5.5 seconds.

All three 2013 GL-Class models continue to channel power through a seven-speed automatic transmission, using Mercedes-Benz's 4Matic full-time all-wheel-drive system. A new On- and Off-Road Package, available only on the GL450 and GL550, furthers the GL's off-road credentials by adding a skidplate, a two-speed transfer case with reduction gearing, a longitudinal differential lock, and a revised air suspension system that provides up to 12 inches of ground clearance.

Loads of Luxury

From a safety perspective, all 2013 GL-Classes are fitted with ABS and stability control, a collision warning system, and a new crosswind stabilization function incorporated into the electric power steering system. Additional features, including blind spot detection, lane keeping assist, and Mercedes' Pre-Safe Braking system -which automatically applies the brakes when a collision is imminent - are available at extra cost.

Standard equipment on all 2013 GL350 and GL450 models includes heated front power seats, a rear-view camera, Benz's Comand infotainment system, Bluetooth phone pairing, a power tailgate, and rain-sensing wipers. Leatherette seating is standard, though leather surfaces -- including the swanky, quilted Designo seats shown here -- are optional. A Premium 1 Package lumps in a USB audio input, XM Satellite Radio, 10-way power front seats, and ambient interior lighting, while the Premium 2 Package lumps in a Harman/Kardon surround sound system, keyless entry and ignition, and soft-close doors

Both packages, along with most available options and packages are included as standard equipment on the top-of-the-line 2013 GL550, but expect that model to fetch a sizable premium over a standard GL350 or GL450.

Pricing in the Fall

What that premium is remains to be seen: finalized pricing has yet to be announced, though officials suggest MSRP for all three models won't be much higher than the current models. If so, expect the 2013 GL350 to start around $63,000, the 2013 GL450 to sticker for about $64,000, and the loaded-to-the-hilt GL550 to retail for around $87,000.

Finalized figures should be arriving soon, as should the 2013 GL itself: production at Mercedes-Benz's assembly plant in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, should have new GLs arriving at dealers nationwide come September.

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